Talkin ‘Bout Flex: Publicist UK

Since Issue #75, Decibel has brought you left-of-center b-sides, rarities, live recordings and new songs from top-tier metal bands via the outstanding Flexi Series. Want to hear the stories behind these recordings? Read on.

This month, we talked to every last damn member of 2015 eye-wideners Publicist UK about their inspired, curious choice of cover contribution. We’ll leave the details up to Zack Lipez (vocals), Brett Bamberger (bass) and the Davids (Obuchowski and Witte, guitar and drums respectively), but we were certainly as positively surprised and amazed at their work on Tori Amos’s “Precious Things” as we were about last year’s Forgive Yourself.

When were you approached to contribute to the Flexi Series?

David O: The initial discussion was between Dave Witte (drums) and your bossman, Albert. So I wasn’t part of that initial discussion, but a few weeks later, when I’d sent Albert the mix, he and I started reminiscing about how huge Tori Amos’ first couple albums were for us back when we were in middle school/early high school. (I’ve heard this same thing from tons of other metalheads our age. Tori Amos should be considered an honorary metal musician.)

Dave W: Actually, I was in a thread with Bob/Relapse and Albert and there was mention of Decibel needing a song for a flexi. So I threw up a Hail Mary. “Albert, what do you think about Publicist UK doing a Tori Amos song?” He was game.

How did you choose “Precious Things”?

Dave W: Blame David O on this one. His idea, it was really cool to step outside the norm.

Zack: I’ll admit that I was, until the last few years, not very familiar with Amos’s work. Whether this had more to do with the misogyny of teen to twenty-something Zack, or just my general snobbish aversion to everything that wasn’t at the time on Lookout or Dischord Records is not my call to make. Let’s say the latter as it’s slightly less embarrassing. Luckily, between David O and my girlfriend’s endless proselytizing, I’ve since seen the light. I was born a fool and I’ll die a fool and in between, I got into Tori Amos.

David O: Over the last year, we’ve all kicked around various ideas for covers. Punk, metal, art-rock, etc. “Precious Things” by Tori Amos was an idea I’d pitched during one of those discussions. I’ve loved that song ever since I first heard it when I was like 13 or whatever. I’ve never had a band that would be a good match to cover it ’til Publicist UK. I thought the structure, dynamics, and atmosphere would be something we could really work with. And I also suspected Zack’s deep baritone would be a really interesting counterpoint to Tori’s voice. I was worried my bandmates wouldn’t like the idea, but it turns out they did.

When/where did you record the song?

Zack: I recorded with Andrew Schneider in a secret location that had a large harp in it. My lady stood with me in the vocal booth and conducted me as Tori Amos does some veryyyyy fucking neat stuff vocally that I couldn’t hope to approximate without a puppet master. I put a shit-ton of energy into it that was 90% terror of not doing the song justice. Lyrically it’s a tough one as it’s important/fun to relate to it, while still understanding on a core level that, as a dude, I can’t ever truly appreciate the utterly fucked up dynamic that is at the song’s root. So I tried to make a compelling cover without any presumption of “making the song my own.”

David O: We actually took the same approach with this as we did our original songs. That is to say, I came up with the arrangement and then sent it around for comments and to be built on. I probably came up with a good five or six different arrangements until I settled on the one we used. Witte called me up and asked for one change, and then we had the final arrangement. From there, I recorded my guitars in two studios. A lot of the clean stuff was done in my home studio. And then I had a fucking marathon of a night at a local place called the Rocky Mountain Lounge. There, Jim Reilly stayed up until about 4 or 5 am tracking my guitars. It was exhausting, but we drank some good beer. I’ll let the other guys talk about how they did their parts. But ultimately, Dean Baltulonis (the guy who produced our album) pulled everyone’s parts together and did the overall production and mixing on it. A bit of very nice volunteer work from him. He’s great.

Dave W: There was a time crunch and it was fun scrambling to find somewhere to do drums in Richmond. I called some friends and after a few days, Rusty/The Ward decided to help out. I offered to clean out his storage area for the assistance, but he said he’d rather have me drum on one of his demos down the road. It was fun recording a song with sparse drumming.

Brett: I self-recorded the bass in a quiet part of Maine. I wrote lines to the original version, then to David O’s arrangement & then selected what worked best for each part. It was a fun “out of the box” experience from start to finish for me. Big shout out to Dean for taking the stem from there!

Do you know yet what color your flexi is? What do you think about translucent blue?

David O: The clear blue is sick!

Dave W: No. A picture flexi would be nice. 😉

Zack: If t’s not blood splatter or neon marble I quit.

Brett: I’m hoping for “Blinging Gold.”

Have you listened to other Flexis in the series? Do you have a favorite?

David O: I’ve listened to pretty much all of them. The Flexis are legendary. Some favorites: Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Honkey Reduxtion EP is super sick. The Napalm Death Flexi is insanely good. So are the ones by Pallbearer and Skeletonwitch and Torche. And that old Pentagram demo was great, too.

Dave W: The Municipal Waste one, of course! Haha. I really love that song and we never play it. Religion Proof, check it out. 🙂

Zack: I don’t have a subscription. I buy Decibel every month at the Tribeca Barnes and Nobel, sipping on an expensive latte, watching the demon spawn of capitol read the graphic novels for free. I’m just going to assume ours is the best. Top five at least.

Brett: Some dudes did a cover of Death’s “Pull the Plug” this one time and I thought it was neat.

Check out all of the Decibel Flexis here.